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  Audio Ideas: CBC Radio Two - Intelligent Music Selection Becomes A Sausage Factory

      Date posted: November 15, 2007

CBC LogoAt my daughter’s wedding in May 07, after polite greetings, the first thing one of the other principal parents said to me was, “My God, what’s gone wrong with CBC Radio Two all-of-a-sudden?” Of course, having worked there for a number of years in the 70s, I was thought to be something of an expert. I have kept in touch with friends inside, but quite a few of those folks have retired, or fled, like I did, in disgust. And the migration is happening again. The head of Radio Programming has just quit (related?), Danielle Charbonneau exited the new all-night show, Nightstream, in mid-Summer, and Shelley Solmes has disappeared from Here’s To You this Fall. I was hoping for Andrew Craig to follow suit, but no such luck yet.

I ran into a veteran music producer at a concert in June, who shrugged, as if it had been inevitable that the “nu Kulturati” (my phrase) would take over, and expressed his hope to retire soon. To cite his long and broad music broadcast experience would be to identify him, but he was someone with whom I worked way back then, when I seemed a bright young talent, interviewing Neville Marriner, Glenn Gould, Aaron Copland, and so on.

And I’ll put my cards on the table, by saying that I was so badly treated by program management, that I decided to buy a magazine, The FM Guide, and continued to work only in private radio, specifically CKFM, Toronto, then the biggest FM station Canada in terms of audience. I was never lied to, humiliated, and generally treated like shit in private radio the way I was at the “Corpse”, as the inmates call it, which is perhaps short for “The Canadian Broadcorping Castration”. So, yeah, maybe I’m still a little bit bitter, but a little bit better, too, I think. Leaving let me move to the career, or careers, which I’m still engaged in: writing, designing and publishing magazines; producing and engineering music recordings; and now operating and overseeing this large and very busy web site about music and home entertainment.

But for 30 years since those days, I’ve been an avid CBC-FM listener, especially to the Classical and Jazz programs, and concerts in each genre and in others, like Folk. It was nice to have these areas intelligently delineated into programs hosted by knowledgeable and experienced “presenters” (as the BBC calls them). The block programs for weekday morning and afternoon have been well produced, and the hosts popular, and a few of these fine talents have survived relatively intact in their roles, while others, terribly miscast in the new grind, have suffered fates I did not and would not wish for. Let me reflect on this.

The Peter Principle is always operative at the CBC, especially in radio. But it has its own perverse twist: it’s not that people are just elevated to their level of incompetence (that mostly happens in Corpse management), but they are shifted, like Hudson’s Bay department heads used to be (from Home Entertainment in Toronto to White Goods in Winnipeg), that is, to new and foreign assignments they don’t know and often don’t want to know. Right now, I suppose you could call it the Matt Galloway principle, where the jack of all programs gets into deeper and deeper mud (and probably stress), hosting here, and filling in there, and so on. He’s been noticeably absent on recent Canada Live programs, and was always the alien from AM, sorry, Radio One, chirping his intros and extros on the way home from the Radio One TO Here & Now afternoon program. Now that he’s disappeared, will we see Jill Dempsey? She’s now sneaking in the 4:05 Radio 2 weather. Long day. But I wouldn’t mind so much hearing her on Canada Live!

I may come back to nice, burbly contralto voices in a bit. But the first thing, the Signature of the niew Radio Tiew, is the voice I call “Promo Boy” (PB), a vaguely masculine “light baritone” (as the legendary Lamont Tilden once described me when I was training as an announcer in 1974). He oozes through incessant promos, mouth full of gum in seeming endless slobber. He’s also taken over Radio One, the maddeningly sarcastic original Promo Girl having gone off to have a baby (or a real career), I suppose. But she was better and easier to take, in these 30-second spots, than this current lubricious leftover from an old Molson commercial. So PB sleazes from show to show in his little dramas throughout the day, interrupting the flow of programs that have none, anyway, but we’ll get to that.

It seems Radio Tiew (as he pronounces it) is trying to get us to seek out his promos to find out what’s coming up on Radio Two. God knows, you wouldn’t necessarily find that info by looking at their web site!

“This Playlist Is Coming Soon”

This is the operative phrase found most often in their highly self-touted (verbally by PB, with extra saliva, of course) Playlist section of the Radiotwo.ca site. Canada Live is the worst offender in this regard, with concert play sheets often not appearing for days after the broadcast event, if at all.

And if you want to have hard copies, they turn out to be difficult to print. I’ve had to use my 11 x 17″ HP magazine-proof printer, with the big paper in it, to keep the type on the pages. And sometimes they won’t print completely, like the notes for the wonderful Latino-Klezmer band, Odessa/Havana recently, these, of course, showing up on the site a day after the broadcast. Somehow what was on the site ran off the bottom of one print-preview page and never made it onto the next one.

One could wish for a little basic competence in the area of site page formatting. And with all the white space on the left side, there’s no reason whatsoever it can’t all fit and print nicely on an 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet or two. Is it style over substance, or just no substance at all?

The Mystery Meat In The Programming…

In my darker (and perhaps more ironic) moments I fantasize that Katie Malloch has a thing for beach boys and cabanas, as well as super-cool Motown Men like Al Green, not to forget some of the pathetic male would-be jazz singers that turn up all too frequently on Tonic. I’ve taken to calling the show “Toxic”, because so much of the music gives Jazz a bad name. She even seemed to apologize for this programming trend in a Globe & Mail interview in the Spring. But it only got worse after.

As I’ve hinted above, the combining of Latin and Klezmer music is quite appealing as realized by Odessa/Havana. Both musical genres developed in medieval Spain, anyway. But all that ricky-ticky bingo-bongo stuff they (”they” adding blame on the producers) shove into every Tonic show makes for a fast tuneout for me. And if the job isn’t completed by that, just add a little tired Temptations, or some other soulless commercial soul. I was outa’ there every night until I just gave up. And after I went on vacation I never came back until I started to research this rant. And this Fall, plus ca change…or as Bruce Cockburn wrote in one of his darker moments, “The trouble with normal is it only gets worse!”

But, then you can chill out later on The Signal, with the ever-ephemeral Laurie Brown (what is she smoking?). Here, the sausage gets weirder, with a definite off taste for me. I’ve taken to calling the program, “The Stigma”, and in its more memorable moments, “The Stigmata”. I’m not sure how young composers feel about having their music surrounded by a lot of even more obscure crap. This is exposure of our homegrown talent? I’ll take Two New Hours any Sunday night, or any night of the week, for that matter.

But let’s come back to the tainted meat in the evening sandwich, so to speak, Canada Live. Just the very name has become an oxymoron by the very nature and provenance of the programming. It’s not Canadian so much as mostly multicultural, and, as far as I can tell, never live, just recordings of performances. And again, the sausage machine is at work, with strange musical genre juxtapositions from hour to hour in any given show, and, without launching into a detailed critique, it too often contains performances that never should have seen national exposure for musical, and sometimes, technical reasons.

But the kicker is that, more often than not, you can’t find out beforehand what you’re going to get, because of the lack of a published playlist ahead of the broadcast. To find out, you have to listen earlier in the day for the little verbal turds from PB about what’s on. And that can be painful, too.

And here I have to ask the question: Is all this on purpose? Do they really want us to listen? Is there an internal subversion campaign going on to sabotage Radio Two programming?

And on a broader scale, just what demographic do the head honcho programmers really want to attract and hold? As far as I can tell, they’re already succeeding (in Toronto and the GTA at least), in sending jazz fans down the dial, and classical lovers just up the dial a bit, unless they can stomach Moses Znaimer’s own Pop Classics delicatessen a little higher in frequency (a phrase which also applies to the music played).

And on that note, I think I’ll stop for the moment. I haven’t dealt with daytime programming because it has suffered less, though I can almost see my old colleague Eric Friesen rolling his eyes from time to time. And Tom Allen? Well, the day he went on about head lice, I started to wonder if all those early mornings hadn’t finally gotten to him (I’ve done morning shows, too!). But I’ll never know what else he went on about, because I spend what morning radio time I have with the charming, burbling contralto of Sherri Barbour on WNED-FM. I’m afraid that for most of my serious radio listening I’ve pretty much buried the Corpse.

Andrew Marshall

First Response From A Reader:

Great article on Radio 2, Andrew. Congratulations! How can we get this item more exposure? You have summed up the situation perfectly.

I had 30 years with the ABC in Australia, the last 10 working with ABC Classic FM. That station still sounds great today, but it has gone through a few really bad patches also. I still listen to it on line. I am taking a photostat copy of your article and I’m going to make sure that some ex-CBC pals of mine here on Salt Spring Island get it as well.

I am amazed that so many incompetent fools now seem to be running the CBC. I have written to all of them and made my complaints well known. Of course, I get the usual sort of replies, mostly condescending. I have given up, and now I never listen to the CBC anymore, though my wife still has it on in the kitchen during the day, so I hear a bit by osmosis. It’s awful with all those promos by this idiot, who sounds as though he’d make a very bad second-hand car salesman!

Don’t stop your writing. You say it much better than I do, so keep it coming, but see if you can reach a bigger audience than you already do.

Regards, Rick Weston.

Further Thoughts? Email andrew@audio-ideas.com

Here’s another comment:

I am another member of the disaffected cbc radio 2 audience. Like you, I am mystified by the marketing department, who seem not so much to have identified target audiences as concocted them. Who in the name of Apollo is subjecting herself to the sampled faucet-dripping and burping (I exaggerate only in the case of the latter) that represents typical fare on The Signal? Not to mention concertos for the electric zither and I-have-a-degree-from-Princeton-but-am-tone-deaf.

The promos to ingratiate us to radio “personalities” aspire to inanity.

Anyway, I now listen to BBC radio online.

Tara May Vancouver, BC

And here’s one cadged from the Globe & Mail site in response to Pinchas Zukerman’s recorded comment that without Classical music people will riot in the streets…

Robert Mulvaney from Goderich, ON, Canada writes: As CBC2 continues its deplorable anti-classical music policies, Zukerman’s comment is worthy of consideration. The rhetoric may be exaggerated, but the threat to civility epitomized by the decline of good music in our lives is very real. Zukerman’s comment should be taken as a call for renewed efforts to educate the public in fine art. CBC 2 does the public no such service in its new programming.

And here’s another missive from a long lost listener…

Hello Andrew: Again a voice from the past. It seems that our paths cross once in each decade. Online for only a few years now, I have enjoyed your website and I am quite impressed with its new format.

The [CBC] decline is not sudden, it started decades ago. I am still saddened by how Bob Kerr’s programming was gradually dumbed-down. He once was sufficiently exasperated to say on air “I’d like to do more challenging things, but I could lose the show.” Certainly there were periods of acceleration in the decline, and a precipitous drop last year, but decline seemed integral to “Holy Mother Corp” I finally gave it up as a lost cause; and from the beginning of the year have used only Radio One for two news broadcasts each day.

Moving back to Halifax in 2005, we left the tuner behind—at the prospect of only having CBC available. I have since discovered online radio and have regained VPR [Vermont Public Radio] CLASSICAL (www.vpr.net ) and my old favorite, WQXR— which I fondly remember listening to on AM radio as a child. (www.wqxr.com). There is also WFMT in Chicago, which unfortunately appears [to be] a subscription service— but most of their broadcast concerts are also carried by VPR Classical. Last week we enjoyed the Berlin Philharmonic from Carnegie Hall (Ades’: “Tevot”, and Mahler’s ” Das Lied…”, on WNYC, broadcast live.

Taken all in all, I do not miss CBC.

John Edward Bain, Halifax

Yet another informed opinion…

I agree with everything you said in your CBC [Radio 2] article, and you covered the
problems very well.

I am also totally distressed by these changes having been a Cassical FM fan since I was a child listening to BBC Radio 3 in London, so much so that I ended up working at BBC as a recording engineer (and then on to Canada and four Gemini awards for film sound work). I found a web site with a petition and helped to publicise it, (1000+signatures), www.radio2forum.ca , and I think it has been shown to management, but the woman who started the web site petition is so discouraged that she feels that not much more can be done.

Comments in the press by management and the politics at the top do not seem to distinguish between arts programming on FM and all the other media. The promos are the nail in the coffin for me: any manager of a classical channel that would allow these gross promos should not be allowed near the station.

It also seems extraordinary to me that no major musical critic from the national press or any of the musical organisations have made any comment. If you can think of any contacts or strategy to get more pressure on management to reverse these changes, please feel free to get back to me, my Magnun Dynalab tuner is [now] severely under used.

Brian Avery

Here’s another response from an aggrieved ex-listener:

Hi Andrew,

I recently wrote to WNED in Buffalo, suggesting that, if they beefed up the power of their FM 94.5 transmitter a little, they could practically take over the classical music radio scene in the GTA and increase their subscription base as well.

No answer yet. Is it likely that such suggestions would cause fear and trembling among the CBC heirarchy? Ha ha! They’ve probably never heard of WNED.

Regards and keep up the attack.

Ian McColl

And the author’s less-than-hopeful reply…

Hi Ian,
As a former broadcaster and radio station manager, I can assure you that boosting power of a station is a very bureacratically difficult process, and internationally, a very political one. The one part involves regulatory approval, and the other the bleating and wailing of other interested parties. Frankly, from my point of view, the licence in Hamilton at 94.7 should never have been granted for that frequency because it is adjacent to the longstanding close-by station at 94.5. Were that existing station Canadian, it never would have happened. But the CRTC has dropped the ball on radio in these recent partisan years, and is now denying de facto a program resource to Canadians that Canadian public radio has now largely abandoned, at least in Ontario, if not the whole country.

[And here are some further thoughts I didn’t include in my immediate email reply: the Canadian digital radio system, on the L Band, has failed utterly, killed largely by the lack of support by those broadcasters half-heartedly doing it in Canada, including the CBC, and its lack of synchronization with the US IBOC (in-band-on-channel) system, which piggybacks the digital radio onto the 100 kHz sidebands that were meant to eliminate the very interference problems that exist between close-together FM stations.

WNED-FM is, in fact, broadcasting this digital signal, with their FM-classical low-bit digital signal on one side of their centre frequency, and their AM-news low-bit signal on the other side of the 94.5 signal. Modulated at very low levels that make them impossible to receive at more than about 40 miles, they do, I believe, bleed transmission power from the main FM-stereo signal, and cause nasty digital noise signals, making the main WNED-FM stereo signal even more difficult to receive in fringe areas north and west of Toronto, like King City where I live. And I have an antenna tower and a dedicated high-gain FM-only antenna.

I can receive HDTV video signals from Buffalo with ease on all their channels (including the 3 WNED digital TV stations), but not WNED-FM as well as I used to, I believe, because of this IBOC digital radio signal. The great irony is that this particular technology is named HD-RADIO, but is nothing of the kind, just a low-resolution digital signal system that is definitely not high fidelity, but crappy audio on a par with the lowest quality iPod resolution. And it degrades distant reception of the main analog FM-stereo signal. Now, there’s something to write WNED about!]

Because Ontarioans are now denied a proper Canadian classical music service (except Moses Znaimer’s commercial claptrap pop-classical potboilers station at 96.3), then I, and many others, believe protest is the only remaining option.

cheers, Andrew

Here’s the reply form WNED-FM’s Chief Engineer to Ian McColl’s letter. He addresses the 94.7 issue, but does not deal with the fact that the Hamilton station should never have been licensed for that frequency in Southern Ontario. I guess it’s just a burden he has to bear silently, as WNED-FM has lost thousands of listeners and potential donors in the Hamilton corridor due to Canadian bureaucratic stupidity or cupidity (you decide which!).


Dear Ian,

Indeed, we would love to be able to increase our signal strength -
unfortunately, we are bound buy U.S. Federal Communications Commission
regulations and international treaties to our current power level
(WNED-FM is already a “superpower” station at 105,000 watts). There is
also an issue with interference from CIWV (94.7) in Hamilton.

We are available on the web, streaming at www.wned.org. If you are able
to listen on the web, members can request a special password that allows
uninterrupted streaming. All others must re-connect every hour.

Thanks very much for listening (or attempting to!)

Best regards,

Joseph C. Puma
Director of Engineering and Technology
Western NY Public Broadcasting Association
WNED-TV/DT/AM/FM & WNJA-FM
(716) 845-7037

Russell Smith’s columns in the Globe & Mail resulted in some comments directed here, as well as numerous letters to the newspaper.

Dear Andrew,

Rick Phillips has just announced the end of Sound Advice after 14 years. He noted that the first program in the replacement series will be an interview with Leonard Cohen. One more sign of deterioration in CBC Radio 2. Thought you might be interested in the following letter to the Globe And Mail after their Wednesday March 5 story “Radio 2 plans less weekday classical music.” The Globe printed the last half of the letter:

So, the CBC Radio 2 demolition squad will finish this phase of its work in September. By that time thousands who had the benefit of an adult education in good music from CBC hosts like Bob Kerr and Ken Winters in the past and now Eric Friesen, will be gone, listening to other stations around the world. Jennifer McGuire, executive director of radio commented that” … overall ratings haven’t dropped as significantly as anticipated …. ” Is the next phase a cross-country campaign to get classic[al] music listeners to abandon Radio 2 completely?

Keep up the good work.

John Collins

Hello Andrew,

I just read your article on CBC Radio 2 and it’s good to see something in print that takes a
strong stance against the demasculation of our nation’s only national classical radio station. I too
am one of the disaffected, I too am a long time listener who has now turned the dial.
Unfortunately, in Vancouver the choices are few and far between, so I end up listening to Radio 1 or Radio-Canada if I actually want to listen to the radio at all.

I have also written on blogs as well as to the CBC ombudsman to register my dissatisfaction. The
ombudsman actually wrote back and detailed all my points in their defence.(surprise).
I must have deleted that exchange but in essence I stated my profound sadness at the turn CBC was taking in their effort to gain a younger broader audience. I am in my late 30’s (the target audience) - I have had CBC playing around me since my family arrived in Canada from the UK when I was 2.

To me CBC FM has been one of the most unifying Canadian experiences of my life. CBC has always been there - from Bob Kerr to 2 New Hours, CBC was my source for classical music from ancient to modern. Asides from classical as a teen I used to tune into Brave New Waves to make tapes of music that was outside of the norm and was impossible to hear in rural Canada (it’s amazing how many friends I know shared the same experience in small
towns).

I would almost guess that what the execs have in mind is applying chinese water torture to its audience so that they eventually die off and CBC 2 can be officially canned - if not, then the people in charge are truly idiotic. As I write this, I understand that Disc Drive is to be axed - this seems a real shock, as the format of playing an ‘eclectic’ mix has been used for every other show. As I said to CBC, trying to capture a younger audience by being hip is just going to annoy the regulars and young people don’t and won’t care anyway.

Maybe we need a CBC radio 4 like the BBC, which can play all the hairshirt classical stuff - something committed, solid and cultured. Yes, culture - isn’t that what we are talking about
here[?] - the rewards of classical music are great when one is willing to give it time and commitment, but you can’t do that with single movements of concertos mixed between Canadian rock music…do they understand that basic concept? Culture takes commitment - it isn’t
part of the background.

It is a great shame that new generations will miss out on the kind of programming I grew up on - I still remember feeling shock when Bob Kerr quit…I’m sure he’s in a better place now, R.I.P.
Now off to Audiogon to sell my tuner.
Sean Lawson.

p.s. try and see the film ‘To Play and to Fight’ ,about
the Venezualan youth orchestra system - it gives some
hope for classical music in this iPod world.

Here’s yet another response after all the coverage in The Globe & Mail:

Bravo Andrew!I too would like to hear that Andrew Craig is deep-sixed but I fear that he represents the new minds (or mindless new) at the renovated CBC 2! I was appalled to hear him translate Les pleurs as “the crying” when he was attempting to introduce a selection whose name I can’t recall, probably due to shock. He’s in good company with the rest of our “hosts”, especially “Gregory Charles and the others.To put all this in context, I think that the destruction of Radio 2 is deliberate and in line with the destruction of our health care and education systems. We have to protest: our tax dollars are being misspent everywhere we look. It’s too bad that we are losing Radio 2 to babble and irritating noise. I turn the radio off more and more as in BC there are few alternatives. I will search out the internet sites mentioned by one of your correspondents. It was good to read your comments as I felt less isolated and depressed than usual every time I turn on “Radio Tiew” ! (I find PB irritating as well! )Lynda


Fear Not! Another analysis (read tirade) is coming from me very soon, as soon as the clipping pile reaches critical mass in my mind. As a teaser, their ads defending the wrecking of Radio 2 are so idiotic, insensitive, and culturally naive enough to suggest the whole re-program is based on another cultural revolution that happened halfway around the world a few decades back!

What do you think? email me: andrew@audio-ideas.com

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36 Responses to “Audio Ideas: CBC Radio Two - Intelligent Music Selection Becomes A Sausage Factory”

  1. Ian McColl c-unknown Says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I recently wrote to WNED in Buffalo, suggesting that, if they beefed up the power of their FM 94.5 transmitter a little, they could practically take over the classical music radio scene in the GTA and increase their subscription base as well.

    No answer yet. Is it likely that such suggestions would cause fear and trembling among the CBC heirarchy? Ha ha! They’ve probably never heard of WNED.

    Regards and keep up the attack.

    Ian McColl

  2. John Collins c-ca Says:

    Dear Andrew,

    Rick Phillips has just announced the end of Sound Advice after 14 years. He noted that the first program in the replacement series will be an interview with Leonard Cohen. One more sign of deterioration in CBC Radio 2. Thought you might be interested in the following letter to the Globe And Mail after their Wednesday March 5 story “Radio 2 plans less weekday classical music.” The Globe printed the last half of the letter.

    Keep up the good work,

    John Collins

    So, the CBC Radio 2 demolition squad will finish this phase of its work in September. By that time thousands who had the benefit of an adult education in good music from CBC hosts like Bob Kerr and Ken Winters in the past and now Eric Friesen, will be gone, listening to other stations around the world. Jennifer McGuire, executive director of radio commented that” … overall ratings haven’t dropped as significantly as anticipated …. ” Is the next phase a cross-country campaign to get classic music listeners to abandon Radio 2 completely?

  3. Alex Langford c-ca Says:

    I avoid the growing CBC problem by resorting to Buffalo PBS ( 94.5 ) thoroughly audible in Toronto, and occasionally to Moses Znaimer’s96.3.

    I see the decline of serious music as part of a general decline of Western civilization, seen in the decline of the English language today, the decliine in social cohesion in the forms of all voluntary associations, and the failure of politics in several Western democracies to attract the best people into public life.

  4. Bertha c-ca Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Alex Langford. Sadly, the striving for excellence does no longer exist and we are reverting to primitivity.
    Once you start worshipping the lowest common denominator, as the CBC has been doing for several years now, you lose credibility and fail in your role as a guardian of culture and a servant to the general public.
    I listen to classical music on the internet, whenever possible. However,one has to search for the right station, because not all of them are worth listening to.

  5. barbara c-ca Says:

    I am so disappointed with the direction of CBC2 (and 1 for that matter) that I don’t know what to do or where to turn? Which political party will support the return of the CBC as we would want it to be? It is obvious and somewhat comforting to know that I am not alone with my sentiments. I just can’t understand how this could happen, this mediocrity. I loved the classical music on the CBC! I loved the trained voices of the announcer — there would never have been a “promo boy” in the past. Why has there not been a larger protest of this new programming where the public could become vocal? It seems that these protests are hushed up. I cannot believe that I am now listening to U.S. public radio for classical music! Is there anything that can be done? Please advise.

  6. Barb c-ca Says:

    I finally went searching for comments re: Radio 2 change in progamming and found this website.

    Wonderful to see that others are as upset as I am. I have lost the companionship of the announcers and their music as I work in my kitchen preparing meals and during those meals. While the 5 hours of classical music still left is all right I either forget to put the radio on or to switch stations from the WNED or 96.3( which has gone down hill too). Thanks for posting the information re: WNED signal as I was going to write to them. Living Waterloo REgion means I sometimes get them but usually the signal fades out.

    So what can be done? Petitions? Lots of letters? As one writer says it is our tax dollars. And PLEASE do not tell me to listen on line or streaming. My computer is not in my kitchen!!! How many seniors would even be prepared to do that??

  7. Allan C. Fleming c-ca Says:

    I would never believe that it could happen: I had been a regular listener to CBC Radio for many years, but as of the last 18 months I have opted for other world news and entertainment sources. A national broadcast service which is paid for by tax paying citizens should promote and model a higher level analysis, language and presentation than might be expected on commercial radio stations.
    No effort has been made to relate broadcast times and length with local time! Further more there only a very few programmes that warrent 120 minutes of air time.In a survey of friends (and once avid listeners) I have not found one in any age demographic that consider CBC worthy of their precious “listening time”. I am in the process of requesting that government funding be reduced in level with the quality of the local and national service.

  8. H. A. Pearson c-ca Says:

    I used to receive WNED Buffalo 94.5 perfectly in Newmarket Ontario. The CRTC put and end to 94.5 by allowing a Hamilton radio station to transmit on 94.7 FM. I am addicted to classical music, and this type of music is now impossible to receive here on any FM frequency. CBC Radio Two now transmits junk, and should summarily loose their license to transmit because of lack of classical music. The only classical music that can be received in Newmarket is via XM or Sirius satelite radio. The GTA is a wasteland for classical music.

  9. Robert c-ca Says:

    There is some comfort in knowing that I am not alone in lamenting the dismantling of the venerable and respected CBC radio programming that I enjoyed so much over the years. I can’t see the new programming succeeding in the misguided attempts to “connect with the younger audience”, and the end result will have been to lose on the small but faithful listening audience that CBC benefitted from for years. Let’s hope 2009 will see CBC management come to their senses and discard this new programming attempt. I just hope the baby won’t get thrown out with the bath-water…

  10. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    As writer of the article, i guess I should weigh in here again, and I also recommend correspondents read my follow-up diatribe, The Noo Radio Tew - Amateur Radio, Paid For By you!

    I have therein decried the licensing of the garbage “smooth Jazz” station in Burlington/Hamilton at 94.7, which could only have been a sop to CBC Radio 2 when it was classical to block out WNED at 94.5. What a fiasco that has turned out to be, a kind of stupid nationalist prank!

    And, Robert, I’m afraid CBC management has no “senses”, nor any taste to boot left. And boot it they have. The baby has already been thrown out, with established engaging professional hosts fired and replaced by gabbling idiots. The terrible music speaks for itself, but these people can’t speak at all, the only thing uniform about the noo Radio Tew programming. Of course, we do get our little token intelligent programming reminder every Sunday afternoon.

    Finally, streamed internet Classical or Jazz programming is like de-caffienated coffee, or alcohol-free wine or beer. There’s the structure and a ghost of the flavour, but no substance nor fidelity, and definitely no kick…except a big one in the ass for loyal Corpse listeners. It is indeed the age of the undead, and they’re all waiting online, with the real zombies cackling away on the Noo Radio Tew. Take a bow, Julie, and then take a powder, if you know what I mean!

  11. Brian c-ca Says:

    I am as upset, outraged, appalled, saddened as anyone above at the destruction of Radio 2. A couple of comments: Espace Musique over on Radio Canada went through a similar overhaul but seems to have found a more creative mix of programming (although I’m sure many of their listeners would disagree). At least their evening classical broadcasts survive for the moment and their jazz/blues selections are vastly more interesting than the pap on CJRT. Second, I’m not sure what your concerns are with internet radio. Partly due to the loss of Radio 2 I’ve started listening to BBC3 and other high quality content sources via this medium so I don’t think you’re referring to content. So is it the sound quality? Again, I’m surprised how good it can be. Last night I compared Espace Musique via my tuner versus the internet stream played over the same audio system. The tuner was better but it certainly wasn’t night and day with the stream being perfectly acceptable (and that using a wireless gizmo, an Audioengine W1 so I think one can do even better).

  12. evelyn gent c-ca Says:

    I am amongst your legion of lost listeners. I listen to as much of the 5 hours from 10-3 - the busiest time of my day - as I can, then turn it off as soon as the howdydoody show starts.

    Maybe the idea is to bore the classical listeners to death to end the problem of heckling.

  13. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    Hi Evelyn,

    I recommend you read my other two subsequent blogs, which are listed above, or easy to find on the site, since they post-date the one you read. The more I listen to Julie Nesrallah the more I cringe. I can’t imagine anyone so grossly incompetent could be put on the air. She even trashes the pieces (all or mostly potboilers) with a blithe garble and giggle. How could it have gotten so bad?

    And I say this on the day after the death of my old friend and colleague Russ Germain, with whom I worked in the mid and late 70s. His passing reflects even more the death of professionalism at the Corpse.

  14. classicalcanuck c-ca Says:

    Have just found your site and read the articles on the New 2. Excellent job, Andrew.
    I really want to help in the fight to restore sanity to CBC radio. But I feel like those of us who still give voice to our objections are simply crying in the wilderness. Do Stursberg and Donlon give a damn whether Nesrallah’s voice causes birds to fall out of trees and my ears to bleed? I think not.
    And, frankly, I wonder if it is worth the angst. Maybe the New 2 should simply be left to implode.
    I’ve been listening to ABC and WNED since October. And, even though I’m a luddite of the first water, I am considering getting an internet radio. Do you have any suggestions or cautions?
    Thanks

  15. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    Hi Classical,

    You do sound very Canadian, in that you prefer to wait them out. We have patience and irony as our weapons, which you show well. Howsomever, as we say up here in the Great White North, you gotta take your stand, and I’ve taken mine.

    But before I rant further, I want to pause a moment to remember one of CBC Radio’s finest broadcasters in the great tradition of radio announcers that is just one of the things abandoned by the Niew radio Too. Russ Germain died a week ago tonight after a sterling career as the voice of The World At Six (with our close mutual friend, Bob Oxley), World Report with Judy Maddren, and many other Radio 1 and 2 programs. Bob and Russ and I were weekend warriiors together in the 2 years I hosted weekend morning FM Classical in TO in the late 70s. I remember our times talking in the announcer’s lounge between programs dearly. Good times.

    Russ had one of the great CBC voices, with warmth, authority, and impressive language skills, that later made him Broadcast Language Advisor. I remember Russ as always articulate (of course), funny, and always well informed, as expected. Our paths diverged after I left the Corpse (not quite at the state of rot as now), but I did follow his career through Bob, as well as often listening in until he retired. I will miss him as a perfect example of what the CBC once was, and could be still, except for the likes of Stursburg and Donlon.

    I like your image of Nesrallah and the birds (not Respighi’s for sure); I will think of it as I fill the feeder tomorrow up here in wild King.

    I bought the Sanyo because it will sound as good as any other, given the bit-starved digital format of internet radio, and the price is right. It doesn’t have a digital output, but its analog out sounds pretty good into a full audio system. Read my review.

    As I said to another correspondent yesterday, let’s all get together when licence renewal comes up. As a former Vice-President of the Canadian Broadcasting League under Graham Spry, I am ready to go into the trenches on this one!

    cheers, Andrew

  16. classicalcanuck c-ca Says:

    Thanks for the radio info. I had read the review, but as I said… luddite of the first water. As long as I know someone who knows what they are doing has this radio, uses it and recommends it, that is the one I’ll buy.
    I too remember Russ Germain fondly as an iconic CBC voice. I often long for the days when I knew I had tuned in CBC just by the sound of the voice that was emanating from the radio. I still miss Otto Lowie(?)’s Orient Express on Sunday. No matter what was going on in life, that voice brought peace and calm - a brief respite.
    With regard to the licence renewal, I would be happy to participate. I simply need to be directed as I am an absolute neophyte when it comes to anything like this.
    Being a woman ‘of a certain age’, I am well versed in being marginalized and ignored. Sometimes we just get tuckered out. However, when necessary, we can rise up, gird our loins, sharpen our tongues and quills and fight to the end.
    Hope to hear more.

  17. Brian c-ca Says:

    I believe it was Otto Loewe, an apt radio name.

  18. Roger c-ca Says:

    Dear Andrew:

    I am glad to see that someone is at least trying to solicit opinion. I wrote to the CRTC who replied that they have “no control over program content”. I believe this is a load of no control bunk because the CRTC seems to have lost all control. However, the more emails and letters we can write to CRTC, the more we may be able to force them to make the CBC accountable. Same goes with each MP. If we bombard them enough they will get the message, even though I wonder who is dumber or slower MP’s or the CBC.

  19. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    How can they have no control over program content when they are required to enforce program formats? When I worked in radio, program logs were sent to the CRTC on a regular basis. But the problem today is that we are a minority, and the CBC has reinterpreted its mandate to provide a more popular service, first on TV, and now with radio.

    However, the current complaint is not simply that redirection, but the level of competence with which it has been done. I repeat myself in saying that the quality of broadcasting, and many of the people doing it on Radio 2, are just not very good. There was a time when speaking well and clearly was valued. That’s part of what I meant by using the word professionalism. I say more about that in my other two rants, so you might want to read them, too.

  20. Tincap c-ca Says:

    Hi Folks. A number of you are familiar to me from the Radio 2 blog…oddly enough I can’t access the ‘Comments’ section on their site anymore. At any rate, there appears to be programming changes afoot at Radio 2, beginning in the end of June.

    It appears that Mr. Allen will now be able to play (some) classical music again and that he’ll be given a 2nd show, to help ’smooth the transition between classical, to contemporary and back again’.

    I realize that budget cuts are partly responsible for the changes, but I believe that CBC may actually be listening…

    Keep up the good work everyone, every e-mail counts!

    BG

  21. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    Hi Tincap or (BG),

    The main trouble with doing the picking and choosing of CBC programs to listen to is the lateness or absence of information on the Radio 2 site, in particular in the Playlist section. The most frequent program information for many shows seems to be “This playlist is coming soon”, and a lot of these come after the broadcast, if at all.

    The worst offender is Canada Live, which is too bad, since so many of the shows are crappy bar bands or terrible singer/songwriters. CBC Radio 2 used to be a haven for live Jazz, but now all we get is 20-minute sets from commercial recordings on Tonic. The Canada Live shows featuring our excellent Canadian Jazz talent are now few and far between.

    With reference to Tom Allen, one of the few post-debacle survivors, I think he’s one that should have been replaced, his predecessor, Peter Togni being a good choice. Adding a few potboilers to the last hour of the morning show won’t smooth any “transitions”, especially that to the giddy idiocy of Julie Nesrallah. And it won’t draw any more listeners!

  22. classicalcanuck c-ca Says:

    The CBC can’t possibly be listening because the Nesrallah thingie will still be torturing listeners for five hours! That goof has single handedly turned off hundreds of radios.
    I listened to Tempo when there was a guest host a few months ago. He played a recorded bit of J.N. singing with the Gryphon Trio. Sounded like she was looking for lost notes.
    If the CBC wants to truly make budget cuts that matter, they will cut people like Stursberg and his minions. Otherwise, everything will continue to descend into the abyss of schlock.
    On a positive note, I love most of Australia’s ABC, some of WNED’s programs and am exploring Europe’s classical streams - even when I can’t understand the announcers, they at least sound as they should!

  23. almostcurmudgeon c-ca Says:

    Now and then I absentmindedly turn on the car radio on my short drive home, and I rarely seem to escape the inanity of Ms. Nesrallah. Her utterances remind me of the scene in Woody Allen’s “Sleeper” (I think it is) when Woody’s character is shown some TV programming of Howard Cosell and is asked about its purpose or significance. He tells the people (in the future he has landed in) that the material had been used to torture those who were socially recalcitrant in some way or another.

    I see above that someone says “every e-mail helps.” Is this so? I’ve thought of complaining to CBC Radio 2 about its sorry state–I’d listen to again if it were half of what it was twenty years ago! Would a bureaucrat care if I told him/her that passing through Vancouver on my very first day in Canada almost 40 years ago, on my way to a new career in Saskatchewan, I happened upon Bob Kerr’s show and was astonished at how good it was…and I had come from a first-rate Classical radio environment in Southern California, where you had a choice of legendary announcers and programming. For many years CBC did a lot keep me enthusiastic about my adopted country; now I have to rely on a slowly shrinking list of other things.

    In my darker moments, I see the decline of the CBC as being like the decline of our universities–a concerted effort to dumb down society so as to render it more manageable and less competent, politically.

    And by the way, I just started listening on-line to the University of Southern California station; take note that their playlists seem very good.

  24. Joe Bigliogo c-ca Says:

    Concerning overall sound fidelity, CBC used to sound wonderful — rich, warm, unstrained and vividly detailed when it was based in Toronto. Since it’s departure to Vancouver it sounds like crap just like almost all FM stations and is getting worse.

    I have some old VHS hifi tapes of mid nieties ‘live sessions’ in the Glen Gould studio that I played recently. I was astonished at the fidelity and dynamics and forgot just how good 94.1 used to sound.

    Why on earth did they have to move CBC?, the station is almost well nigh unlistenable now and the content is getting more lame than ever.

  25. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    Andrew again,
    I’m afraid I have to correct you on your connection of program origin to sound quality. In fact the programs pretty much come from the same places, and are digitally time-delayed for the various zones. The CBC used to do this with analog tape, but now it’s a digital process (like just about everything else).

    Tempo, with Droolie Julie comes from Ottawa, while Tonic originates in Montreal, and other shows come from Montreal, Halifax or other Radio 2 stations. In general, sound quality is pretty even, but the signal is now more compressed and at a higher overall level. I think you are right that the sound quality has deteriorated, and there are fewer true live broadcasts.

    In the late 70s I was hired by the CBC to assess the broadcast sound quality of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, and in those days standards were enforced. I think this is less the case today, perhaps because their engineers now think everything digital is perfect.

  26. Symbolic c-unknown Says:

    So where have all the disaffected R2 listeners gone? Has anybody done a survey? Sure, there are scores of classical streams on the internet - I’ve been dabbling in them for the last year, but miss the mostly intelligent commentary that the old R2 provided.

    In the last two months I’ve latched on to the Australian ABC Classic FM stream, which has similar programming to the old R2, and reasonable sound quality. I’ve been recording 12 hours less the news breaks each day, so it can be timeshifted and then thrown at the stereo via a Squeezebox.

    Its time to move on - the CBC are never going to return R2 to its previous life.

  27. CBC engineer c-ca Says:

    As someone working at the Corps I can tell you that many people on the inside are not comfortable witht eh chages to Radio 2 either. The CBC really needs a third radio service to serve as a platform for pop music. As things stand we have gained some new listeners while alientating a great6number of older audience members. I t basicaaly boils down to the brass worrying that our audience is aging and will soon die off! What thet seem to have ignored is the simple demographic truth that the Baby Boomers are aging and we will soon have the biggest pool of older listeners in history. People tend to grow into CBC Radio as they age and leave the Top 40 behind.

    As for sound quality you will be horrified to know that all music broadcasts from our central time delay server are compressed using MPEG 2 encoding. Trust me when I say that what we record is NOT what gets to air.

    Also in the interest of cost cutting all the people once employed to align systems, calibrate limiters and monitor broadcast quality are gone.

    The MBAs who run the Corp think quality sound can be produced on laptops by people wearing cheap headhones and broadcast through multiple lossy encoders and brick wall limiters. I’m glad when anything resembing the original recording comes out the other side.

    sb

  28. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    Thanks for the inside info. As one of those aging ex-listeners, I understand the concerns. I’m also an ex-CBCer who left because of just the kind of management you describe. I’ve been hearing quite a bit of audio distortion lately, especially on voices, and I know it’s not multipath, but more like digital artifacts.

    I’m afraid I’m now a loyal WNED-FM listener, aided by a new supertuner from SONY that costs about $100, the XDR-F1HD, which brings that station in like a local signal. HD radio doesn’t match FM at its best, but it sure sounds better than satellite (XM or Sirius) or most internet radio, where the bit rates are too low (even Chicago’s famous WFMT is 48 Kbps, and the CBC feeds are worse).

    I left broadcasting in 1986, and it was getting bad then, as CKFM became “The MIX”, but now it’s worse, and, frankly, I see no signs that it’s going to get any better.

  29. Stuart c-unknown Says:

    I listened to Radio 2 for about 40 years but gave up on them after the anti-cultural bean counters butchered it. I especially enjoyed Tom Allen’s show in the mornings, and remember all the special features they did. He’s still there, of course, but not happy, I think. Don Harder, the chief rec. engineer in Vancouver, just took “early retirement” this fall. It’s all a real disgrace, IMHO, but despite the efforts of people like Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, the die was cast and the decisions all made LONG before any of the public got wind of it, so I seriously doubt that anything can be done to resuscitate the situation.

    I still listen to Tonic and Choral Concert sometimes but I’ve defected to the US for my classical music, mostly Iowa Public Radio and KWAX (Oregon.) IPR plays quite a lot of Canadian artists, too. There’s no equiv. to Tom Allen, but there are a number of good syndicated programmes, such as Exploring Music, with Bill McGlaughlin (originating at WFMT in Chicago). There’s even - gasp!- an entire ORGAN programme (Pipe Dreams) on Friday evenings (on IPR). It’s sometimes a bit kitschy but often has some really meaty stuff.

    The bit rates vary from station to station, from 65 to 128 kbps, so the quality is “ok”- but at least there is programming with listening to, for my tastes at least.

    Bye-bye CBC; it was nice knowing you.

    Stuart

  30. Diana c-unknown Says:

    A long time later and I _still_ haven’t found anything that resembled the morning classical music with news. CBC had something great for _years_! First it was Peter Gzowski whom I listened to for many years. Then he retired. I don’t remember who was in between but listened anyway. No one made me take note of their name till the best of the best came along, Tom Allen. But then everything went downhill and CBC brought in some god-awful stuff in the mornings. I _still_ 1 1/2 years later, haven’t found anything to replace the morning classical music lineup with news breaks!

    Too bad, CBC, as I now watch/listen to very little of your programming since it doesn’t broadcast what I need.

    Even the 2010 Olympics that just finished were all covered by CTV!

    Bring back classical music in the mornings, CBC, preferably with Tom Allen!

    Diana.

  31. Stuart c-unknown Says:

    “Bring back classical music in the mornings, CBC, preferably with Tom Allen!”

    Amen, Diana, amen! I just discovered a TA/Music & Co. feature on Percy Grainger from Feb. 2008 that I had recorded off-air that was quite wonderful, but it depressed me to play it again because it reminded me of what we’ve lost. he was definitely the best of the best, IMHO. I wish there was an archive of all those Music & Co. programmes, but they’ll likely just rot in the CBC vaults now until someone decides to reclaim the space and erases them. :(

  32. David Hays c-unknown Says:

    I’m from Buffalo and now also share a home with my partner in Ridgeway, Ontario. When I met her I told her I loved classical music and we had a nice station in Buffalo (WNED) but I really loved CBC Radio 2 with Tom Allen, Daniele Charboneau, and Juergen Goth. Intelligent music and thoughtful commentary about a diverse range of subjects with a sense of humor that seemed to take joy in the fact that we live in a civilized society without any apology. It’s all been so sad. Suggestions on where we all can turn without resorting to limited bit rate internet radio..are certainly appreciated.

  33. oldbrownhat c-unknown Says:

    Holy crow… I’m surprised that this thread is still going!

    I’m afraid I’ve totally given up on the CBC. I still get e-mails from Friends of Canadian Broadcasting but it’s patently obvious that the old CBC classical will never come back, no matter how many complaints they get. My friend Don Hsrder (ex-CBC Head Rec. Engineer in Vancouver) took early retirement as there was little future for him and is now concentrating on freelance recording and editing services.

    For some time now Ive been getting my classical “fix” entirely online, having connected an HST Music Streamer Plus (USB - RCA) to my computer and thence to my stereo. I mostly listen to Iowa Public Radio and BBC 3 (mostly for night-time programming), but also KWAX from Oregon and WGBH Boston and others, as well as some jazz and folk stations. (I must check out WNED in Buffalo if they are online; thanks, David!)

    I do however, still tune in to Tonic on CBC because I really like Katie Malloch, and now that we Mac users FINALLY don’t need to use Flip for Mac software to listen online (which never worked for me anyway)it’s less hassle.

    :)

    I find the US stations do actually play a lot of Canadian artists (even if the presenters often can’t pronounce French names!), plus there is a lot of excellent syndicated programming available, such as Live at the Concertgebouw, which is usually exceedingly good.

    As to the “limited bit rate”, unfortunately Iowa Public radio is only at 65k; most others are 128 or even higher, which is not as good as a clean FM feed but it’s good enough for casual listening.

  34. Brian c-unknown Says:

    March 2012 and I just found this thread..last entry Sept.2010. Is it still active?
    Has anyone ever found out what happened to the size of the listening audience AFTER CBC2 changed its format?

  35. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    Simply put, Brian, it halved again, the supposed hip new audience being far smaller than the core Classical one Radio Tiew rejected in its latest putz-modernism move.

  36. Robert c-unknown Says:

    Nice to hear back from this list.

    It will be interesting to see what CBC does following the cuts expected in the March 29 federal budget. Sadly I don’t have a lot of confidence in anything Lacroix (ex-basketball commentator) and his executive team will do. Kirstine Stewart (Executive Vice-President, English Services) indicates in her profile:

    “Under Ms. Stewart’s direction, CBC has achieved continual ratings successes, launching great breakout hits like Being Erica, Battle of the Blades, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Dragons’ Den, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, Republic of Doyle and Heartland. In 2011, CBC Radio One achieved its highest share for the network since PPM measurement began. And, this past January, the 2012 Winter season broke multiple viewing records in its premiere week, making it CBC Television’s most successful launch in history.

    Since arriving to the CBC in 2006, as general manager of CBC Television, Ms. Stewart has re-established the CBC as the leader in Canadian-made television programming and broadcasting. She has commissioned the greatest number of Canadian content hours the CBC has ever had in prime time and from last place to first in two years, has moved CBC in Canadian programming watched by audience.”

    No mention of Radio Two obviously, which may well be telling in preparation for the cuts… As far as I’m concerned they can cut it out of existence, and let go all those hapless hosts (Nesrallah etc.).

    — disgruntled newly-retired middle-aged old f*rt who misses the “good old CBC radio”…

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